DTC Prescription Drug Advertising


In 1997, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued new guidance to pharmaceutical companies that engaged in direct-to-consumer (DTC) broadcast advertising. Since then, broadcast DTC advertising can mention both the product and condition it was designed to treat without having to include an exhaustive list of disclaimers. Advertising of prescription drugs has drastically increased since then.

AAF Position

The AAF supports the right of pharmaceutical companies to advertise prescription drugs directly to consumers, provided all claims are substantiated and appropriate disclosures are included in the advertising. Proposed moratoriums on pharmaceutical advertising would violate the First Amendment protection for commercial speech. Barring information from advertising will cause more harm to consumers who are not encouraged by an ad to see a doctor about an illness. Surveys show that these ads prompted more than 39 million to ask their doctor about a particular health condition. Advertising is an important source of information about pharmaceuticals.


Opponents of direct-to-consumer advertising come from both sides of the political aisle. Some find televised advertisements for health conditions to be indecent and believe the Federal Communications Commission should regulate them. Others argue that advertising raises the price of prescription drugs or promotes unsafe dispensing and seek to remove tax deductions for advertising or moratoriums on advertising new drug products after the FDA approves them.

Last Updated: September 2008